She smiled, raised her arms above her head in a dancer's arc and pirouetted before him. "It's called a corset."
The garment looked like a decorative cage for Victoria's torso. Shiny black fabric clasped her from above her breasts to the top of her pelvis. In back it split along her spine, revealing a quarter-inch's width of her flesh. The edges were joined by crisscross lacing that tied off in the middle.
"What's it for?"
"Well, this one's for show. Just to look pretty. The original ones were supposed to improve your shape." She knelt beside him, took his hand and placed it over a satin-covered breast. "Do you like it?"
The cloth was smooth and cool to his touch. It covered the pliant warmth of her breast without concealing it. Richard's pulse accelerated.
Victoria Hallanson was not his first lover, but if the fates were kind, she'd be his last. Her erotic gifts were incomparable. She knew an endless number of byways to the arts of love, a fund of enchanting surprises he could not exhaust. Of the quarter-billion joyously free denizens of Hope, she was the freest and most joyous of all.
And the greatest miracle is that she chooses to lavish it on me.
Though the trip to Earth would be the crown jewel of his three-century career in exobiology, he would never have agreed to go without her.
But Victoria was more than an erotic genius. She was the most beloved scion of one of the noblest families of Hope, whose founder had bestowed immortality on Man. Though barely a century old, she was a celestial navigator without peer, and the foremost paleolinguist in the world. Without her, the mission would have been unthinkable.